American Democracy


The fuckery continues…

“The state’s Republican elections chief is resisting swift implementation of the measure, which was approved by nearly 65 percent of Florida voters on November 6 and is scheduled to take effect on January 8. He’s asking the state Legislature, dominated by Republicans, to interpret the ballot initiative. As a result, the dismantling of one of the harshest disenfranchisement schemes in the country could be subject to delays, confusion, and lawsuits.”




The writer of this post is the co-founder of LinkedIn.




Man, it’s gonna be real cool in a few years, when AOC is eligible to run for president, and she can be America’s “I’d vote for her but she’s too unlikeable” candidate.


Like did people really think that a silly video from high school would embarrass her politically?


Yes. Those people have no empathy. They imagine everyone else feeling the same as themselves. They would feel embarassed if that video had them in it, so they couldn’t imagine anyone feeling different. They’re also uncultured and don’t know the breakfast club.


GOP Thinking:

GOP candidate/nominee allegedly and probably sexually assaulted someone in high school: “Oh, that was all the way back in high school! It was so long ago! It doesn’t matter! Let’s confirm!”

Democratic candidate/nominee danced on video back in high school: “HOW DARE SHE BE DANCING IN HIGH SCHOOL! SHE IS TOTALLY UNQUALIFIED!”

See, it all makes perfect sense!


Oh come on we’re not that famous. Even Anteater Squad is more known.



A couple months ago, in the “Now That Donald Trump Has Won” thread, we had a discussion about some of the tactics used by one of the local Democratic campaigns here in VA, and how I thought some of their tactics were dishonest and were geared towards intentionally misrepresenting who they were. This was my original post:

While many people on this forum agreed with my characterization of the tactics as “dirty,” winning, and getting out the vote as effectively as possible, seemed more important than being 100% honest.

In light of the facts that have come out about some of the tactics used by Doug Jones to win the Alabama senate seat, I’m wondering… how far is too far?

“A secret effort to influence the 2017 Senate election in Alabama used tactics inspired by Russian disinformation teams, including the creation of fake accounts to deliver misleading messages on Facebook to hundreds of thousands of voters to help elect Democrat Doug Jones in the deeply red state, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post. But unlike the 2016 presidential campaign when Russians worked to help elect Donald Trump, the people behind the Alabama effort — dubbed Project Birmingham — were Americans…”

Is it OK to employ the same types of disinformation campaigns and strategies that the Russians used against the US in the 2016 presidential election if it’s in the service of electing Democrats?

Is it OK for domestic groups to do these kinds of things but not OK for foreign governments to use these tactics?

Even if, in the Alabama case, it doesn’t appear that this type of disinformation swung the election in Jones’s favor, should these tactics be legal?

When I made my original argument about the local VA group, I was accused of making a “slippery slope” argument, that just because these tactics were used, it didn’t necessarily mean that more dishonest and worse tactics would be employed.

Well, here’s the slope… What do we do now?


People love the old saying about how the ends don’t justify the means. It seems to mostly be taken as an absolute such that it’s not justified to commit even the slightest wrong even to achieve the greatest positive ends. I personally don’t believe that. There are clearly means that are not justified by the ends, but I’m in favor of some immoral acts that are effective in bringing about positive ends within a certain limit.

Want to murder all the opponent’s voters? Clearly not acceptable. Want to spread a conspiracy theory that gets you elected? I’m fine with that as long as it’s the good candidate who is doing it and it works.


The problem is that there’s no way to limit these tactics to just the “good” candidates.

Do we really want an election system where these types of tactics are legal? Because if they’re legal, they’re going to be used. By both sides. By candidates you like as well as those you don’t like.

Either everyone gets to do this, in which case, our elections are going to be rife with misinformation and dirty tactics, to a degree we haven’t experienced before, or no one gets to do this and it’s illegal. You can’t have it both ways.


We absolutely can have it both ways. I’m long past believing in semantically limited, absolute principles that must always be applied universally. Is spreading a conspiracy theory always good or always evil? Neither.

Spreading a conspiracy theory to elect someone who will vote for universal health care and better the lives of millions is a distasteful means that is justified by a terrific ends. Spreading a conspiracy theory to help elect an evil climate-change denier that will doom the earth is not ok. Simple as that.


What are you even talking about?

I’m talking about the law, whether these types of misinformation tactics should be legal, and when we’re dealing with the law, yes, it has be be applied universally.

Once again, you can’t have the good without the bad. By allowing candidates to spread a conspiracy theory to elect someone who will vote for universal health care, you’re also allowing a candidate to spread a conspiracy theory to elect a climate-change denier. You don’t get to pick and choose.

Allowing the types of tactics that the Russians used in 2016 is opening a Pandora’s Box in our election system. You can’t limit the use of these tactics to just Democrats, or candidates you like. If they’re legal, they’re legal. If they’re not legal, then everyone needs to be punished for employing them, to discourage others from doing the same thing.

This isn’t some hypothetical question, this is real life. There is no way to allow one group of candidates to use these tactics without also allowing a different group of candidates to do the same thing.

So, to go back to my original question:

Should these tactics be legal? Because if they are, EVERYONE is going to use them. We won’t get to cherry-pick which candidates get to spread conspiracy theories about their opponents. If they shouldn’t be legal, than NO ONE gets to use them, and campaigns who do, need to be severely punished.


Can’t be illegal unless you want to throw out ye olde first amendment.


Now you’re just talking out of your ass because you clearly have no idea what the law actually is.

Just one example:

For TV ads, every ad has to say who paid for it. “I’m Joe Smith and I approved this ad.” Or “Paid for by the Partnership for Less Talking Out of Your Ass”

For Facebook ads, or Twitter, or Youtube, or pretty much anything online, this isn’t the case. A Democrat can pay for a Facebook ad pretending to be a Republican. They can create a fake group. They can hire bots to spread a rumor about the rival candidate. If you applied the same rules for TV to the internet, and actually enforced them, it would go a long way to cut down on the internet BS we see on Facebook and other sites.

First Amendment intact.


This is an interesting conundrum. The inherent problem is that the type of manipulation here isn’t direct vote count changing - it’s manipulating the voters themselves. It’s how Russia interfered in 2016 - provoking discussion and massaging people’s worldviews towards a particular agenda.

This relates back to what @no_fun_girl posted in that same thread:

We know, for a fact, that we can manipulate people to act in particular ways and believe certain things. It straight just works, nobody’s immune to it, and it’s alarmingly effective. We can discuss ethics left and right, but at the end of the day it will be tricky legal territory and unless we can figure out how to limit speech in such a way as to prevent intentional psychological manipulation, these tactics will remain in play.

So we go back to the question of ethics.

Here’s the thing. Let’s say you’re playing a board game against someone, and they start cheating to win. What are the ethical answers to that?

The politics “game” has an inherent assumption that people are rational actors who make their own informed decisions. That’s the conceit. We have laws against bribery because the idea is that we should elect people solely on their merits - but if we can find ways to accomplish the same end as bribing within the confines of the law, we can “cheat” the system.

IMO, it’s sort of pointless to discuss ethical considerations when you’re facing down someone disingenuously engaging in a competition. We could talk all day about being “right” in the face of someone who has abandoned good-faith engagement, but what does that get us? What good is moral self-righteousness when at the end of the day it cannot accomplish the reality you want?

I again go back to “we’re in the shit, somebody’s gotta shovel it.” These tactics work and your opponent is using them, so what do you do?

If this were a board game, I could walk away. If you were my guest, I could stop inviting you over for being a filthy cheating asshole. If this were a sparring match I could yield the floor. If this were any situation without significant lasting consequences, you could concede and hold your moral victory.

But politics is a necessary inescapable conflict. You cannot simply concede the fight, because 1) it has real consequences and 2) the fight is eternal.

Faced with that situation, I see no use in worrying about “clean” tactics. It’s dirty work, so get dirty and get it fucking done.